Friday, October 19, 2012

Easy Answers vs. Shared Tears

Henri Nouwen once said, "“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 

As we all know, I walk in the messy. I think I've made my home here out in the mudpit actually :) I have friends who are facing all kinds of complicated, messy situations. Friends leaving abusive marriages, friends trying to save hard marriages, friends recovering from abuse (spiritual, sexual, physical, emotional, verbal), friends recovering from addictions, friends trying to leave prostitution, friends trying to parent addicts, friends trying to parent abused children, friends living in the mess of life.  I have lived through the mess in my own life. It is here that I find Jesus, the Jesus who left heaven and made his home dwelling in the dirt and mess of this world. The Jesus who enters our mess and brings hope and healing in the most beautiful of ways.

But mess is uncomfortable. It's dirty. Sometimes when we see mess, we LONG to clean it up! Partly this is's our longing to see things made new and beautiful!  Unfortunately, in our desire for new and beautiful, we tend to wound the wounded even more.
A hard truth that people like to acknowledge in word but don't really live by:
There are no easy answers, simple solutions or 5 easy steps to follow. 

We know our heads. However, in the midst of complicated situations people often try to offer these simple solutions "well, you really should....." Oftentimes, people consider the situation (what they know of it) and search their brains for what information they have stored in there that might apply ("I remember reading something that said a woman should wait x amount of years before dating") and spout that out as God's Word and final truth. People determine what they would do in the situation and then deliver it as the only answer.  

Here's the problem: when you offer simple solutions or "you should"s, you are reducing complex, painful, messy situations into easy answers and simple solutions and invalidating the pain of the person living in the situation.  

Every situation involves more than you can see. Even if you have lived in a similar situation, no two situations are the same. All situations are unique and have unique background information (that you may not be privy to) and involve unique people. What worked for you or someone you know, may not be applicable in this situation! 

I'm not saying that a set of fresh eyes isn't sometimes helpful! Having the wisdom or experience of others can change one's perspective and open up worlds of ideas. We must, however, be ever so gentle and careful when interjecting in hard situations. We must do so with the gentle respect that the person to whom we are speaking LIVES and breathes this pain day in and day out. We must do so with the humble awareness that we are not God and cannot determine with 100% accuracy what any one person MUST do.

I mean, let's be honest....I would not have given a lot of the advice that God gave! I would NEVER have told Abraham to kill his kid. I would never have told Elijah to go live in the forest for weeks on end. I would never have asked Noah to build an ark (because I wouldn't have known that rain would come!).

The path that the Lord asks my friends to walk may look different than my own path or what I would advise. 

With this in mind, instead of easy answers or "you should"s, I want to offer simply a listening ear. I want to offer a shoulder to cry on. I want to offer a gentle voice that says "I can see why that would hurt". I want to point my friends to the ONE person who can offer direction because He's the only one who actually knows all of the details of the situation! My friends tease me that the only thing I ever have to say about a hard situation is "Sweet friend, have you asked Jesus about this?" along with an offer to go to Jesus with them. If they want more, I can provide my life experience or what I have learned on this journey....but I always want to offer it with the caveat, "here is what I have learned or experienced and is simply my perspective".

and then....we love. Sometimes our friends will make decisions that we don't think are the wisest. Sometimes they will make decisions that don't make sense to us, but were exactly the decisions that Jesus led them to making! And so....we love. We love. We listen. We care. We cry together. We enter the pain and the mess. We offer grace. We point to the Jesus who knows every detail and can redeem everything.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful beautiful beautiful! Such a good reminder that we don't need to have all the answers. We just need to be there.